If you are struggling with disobedience defiance, or children who don’t listen to what you say, here’s how to get your kids to mind without the fuss.
Do you find yourself standing and talking… and lecturing… and repeating yourself over and over… and ordering… and then getting ticked off and yelling?
And still, your precious angels stare at you in confusion, disobedience or even defiance?
All in all, you want to get your kids to mind without lecturing. Without cajoling or without threats. While this seems like it should be easy, it’s often a challenge that requires our consistency and attention.
I think it boils down to one thing we parents need to establish in our hearts if we want to get our kids to mind us consistently.
There’s a difference between telling a child a rule and setting them up for success to follow it
One definition of lecturing is “a long serious speech, especially one given as a scolding or reprimand.”
We tend to sit down after an incident when our children didn’t follow the rules and talk talk talk. This doesn’t really work.
If we can build a habit of training and following through with consequences we can avoid lecturing almost altogether. There will be times when we must explain or discuss a situation, but we must think of “lecturing” as a sign we are desperate to convince our kids to do what we want.
Lecturing our kids doesn’t fix the problem and we just end up frustrated
Now, of course there comes a time when you know your child understands what’s to be done, and yet, they don’t do it.
With smaller children we should err on the side of more instruction and less discipline. Let them wiggle out of chores? No way! But avoid lecturing and losing your temper before you know they fully understand the rules.
1. Explain instructions, concepts and principles in times of non-conflict
If you begin to see opportunities throughout your day to explain why you do what you do, you can call upon it during times of potential conflict.
The best time to train your child to do something is when it’s not needed. Or when you’re not in a hurry. The time to practice what they’ve learned is when it’s needed.
2. Demonstrate your instructions repeatedly
It takes a while to master a concept. People learn visually, verbally, and hands-on. For whatever skill or behavior you are training it’s important to demonstrate what you are after multiple times.
This gives children a chance to become exposed to the skill or rule, comfortable with the process, and finally confident in their ability. Do expect it will take a while for your children to pick up a skill. Don’t expect your children to easily understand a concept upon first hearing it.
I often gauge when my children are ready to do things on their own completely – when I’ve shown them enough times – by how soon they start saying “let me do it!” Or if it’s a concept I want them to grasp (no hitting, kicking, or lying, for example), when they start saying what was on the tip of my tongue.
3. Help your kids start the task if they are hesitant
As adults we prefer to give instructions and watch them being carried out. No interference, no having to get out of our chair, no more talking. I say it, you do it.
However, this is not often the case with small children, nor is it the case when we are introducing a more complex skill to older kids. When I want my kids to do something I will walk them to the area in question and point at what needs to be done.
If it’s dusting or sweeping, I will direct them to the area and provide the necessary tools to complete the job. If they start with gusto I will move on, but if they hesitate I’ll begin to demonstrate the skill again. Sure, maybe I’ve done it a few times already, but this act shows your confidence in their abilities and helps them get used to the idea of helping out.
Older children who are doing the dishes or making rolls for dinner may need help organizing the counter or reading the recipe. If you give your instructions and help them get started, this helps curb procrastination and excuse-making.
4. Say what you mean and mean what you say
One of the most underrated tools of parenting (in my humble opinion) is simply this: keep your word.
This won’t be possible 100% of the time, naturally, but if we are people who mean what we say and do what we promise children are far more likely to obey our requests and heed our warnings.
If your consequence is a loss of privilege, don’t be too afraid to make your children angry to follow through. If you’ve established house rules, keep them. The more you get used to doing this the less willpower it will take. It’ll simply become a natural rhythm in your family.
5. Refer to your rules or instructions, don’t lecture
Basically, lecturing is going on and on about something we wish they would/wouldn’t have done. The ins, the outs, the whys, the shoulds and should nots.
The trouble with lecturing our kids is this: if you’re to the lecturing phase they’ve probably already shut down and stopped listening. Young children probably don’t even understand you. There’s an easier way.
When a behavior arises that is not good, or the opportunity for them to learn something comes up, recall your teaching time. By asking your kids to recall information you’ve already shared you will help transfer that information from short-term to long-term memory.
Ask your kids questions instead of accusing
If you’ve asked or told your kids to do something and they don’t, then ask questions.
You can ask them questions like, “Where does this go?” or “why is that a no-no?” or “how did I do that last time?” Instead of spoon-feeding them everything you’ve already spent time teaching them, you can simply ask them to recall for you.
Toddlers know they shouldn’t hit their siblings. Kids know they shouldn’t lie. Teenagers know they shouldn’t sneak out of the house. Lecturing ad nauseam will not help them internalize the things they already know. By getting them to participate in the discussion, you aren’t allowing them to close up, shut down and ignore you.
6. Learn to discern insecurity with stalling tactics.
I’ve gotten pretty good at discerning when my kids are stalling, and when they are simply hesitating due to uncertainty. When they are hesitating they usually remain by me (are not attempting to escape the situation) and seem a tad confused.
I’ve noticed that 75% of the time when my children balk, it’s hesitation not disobedience. They want to be helpful and do things that need to be done. Most of the time they are too engrossed in what they’re doing to have properly heard me, or they simply need to be pushed in the right direction.
They will often get distracted, but this is simply another opportunity for us to teach them to get back on track.When you find yourself starting to lecture, stop.
It’s not about letting them off easy. It’s about letting consequences speak for themselves.
You can either lecture them for an hour and ground them or simply give them a consequence and move on with your day. If you want to lecture about the importance of something, just wait.
Try to articulate your thoughts in one or two meaningful sentences, and then be sure to begin explaining that concept in times of non-conflict. Follow through and don’t balk on consequences.
And if your desire to lecture is in response to misbehavior, issue their consequence and go punch a pillow. They’ll get it.
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